Thursday, June 30, 2016

Dear Will - Twelve Months Old

Dear Will,

It's your first birthday today.

Three hundred and sixty five days ago, at right about this time, I woke up in a hospital room from a quick nap that was my first real sleep in more than twenty-four hours. It was still early in the morning, and they had taken you to the nursery for a bath and a check-up. Not at all sure what I was supposed to do, I pressed the call button hanging from my bed. An unfamiliar voice blasted out of the speaker next to my head, asking me if I needed anything. "Um, my baby, I think?" I said in a tentative voice. "No problem hon," the voice said, and hung up.

Five minutes later the door to my room opened and a nurse came in, wheeling you in a plastic bassinet. She smiled, lifted you out, handed you to me, and walked out, calling over her shoulder that I should page her if we needed anything. I thought that I probably needed a lot of things, but at that moment I didn't know what any of them were, so I just let her go.

And there we were. Just you and me.

Sometimes it seems impossible that this all happened an entire year ago. I've written to you over and over again over the last twelve months about how time seems to be flying by, and I'm feeling that again today most of all because today you are one, but it really does seem like yesterday that the nurse handed you to me and sailed out of the room, leaving me to get to know you.

And I did. I do.

I know that you love to sit on the kitchen floor while I cook, but only if you have a spoon in each hand to play with. I know that the second you push your bottle away at night I have to put you straight into your crib or it takes you a long time to fall asleep. I know that you love corn and hate scrambled eggs. I know what cry means, "I'm tired" and what cry means something hurts. I know Mother Goose Club will keep you occupied for hours but Sesame Street isn't really your jam. I know you rub your eyes when you're a little tired and your nose when you're exhausted. I know that you hate pants with buttons. I know you like the blue ball but not the orange one as much. I know you never met a television remote or a smartphone you didn't need to grab, immediately. I know that when you really like something, your smile reaches all the way up to your eyes. I know how to make you laugh. I know what your face looks like first thing in the morning and right before you fall asleep.

You were mine the very second they handed you to me one year ago, even though I didn't quite understand it yet, and it's been my great pleasure to watch you grow.

And you are growing, fast and furious. This month, you discovered that books are good for reading, and not just chewing on. Your favorites are Where's Spot and Pat the Bunny, but really, anything with pictures and bright colors is just fine with you. I've started reading to you every night before I put you to sleep, and you sit on the carpet, legs spread, and listen with rapt attention.

You love to stand up, and you are getting so steady on your feet. You mastered pulling yourself up on everything from the bathtub ledge to the gate that we had to put up to keep you away from the stairs, and you'll take some steps if we hold onto your hands or if you balance yourself on your walking toy. I really love watching you figure out this new little slice of independence, and I'm pretty sure that you'll be toddling around in no time.

You are finding your voice too. Aside from "da da," which you figured out awhile ago, your first word, strangely, was "wow" followed closely by "uh oh," and, just yesterday, "see ya." I'm still holding out for "mama" though. Just humor me and get to it soon, ok?

Sometimes I just step back and watch you as you go about your business, still amazed a year later that you're here, and that you're mine. Amazed that the six pound baby I met for the first time twelve months ago is a smart, strong, curious little boy. Amazed that I had a hand in making you that way. And then you notice me watching you and you look up and grin and my heart grows wide because for all of the tough stuff and the exhaustion and the worry and the details, motherhood is miraculous, full stop, and these are the moments that remind me. That I have been given this gift - to raise you and to watch you grow - fills me with a gratitude so huge that I sometimes feel like I can reach out and touch it with my hands.

I spent a lot of time over the past year wondering when I would start to feel like myself again until I realized that the answer was, I wouldn't. Because you changed me the day you were born and you keep changing me, every day, in ways I see and in ways I haven't even begun to figure out yet. Motherhood, with its sharp edges and slippery angles, cracked me wide open and then filled me back up again. I'm not the same person I was a year ago, but I think that having you, raising you, loving you, has made me a better person. A little more open, a little kinder, a little more patient, more confident and comfortable with who I am and who I want to raise you to be.

One year ago today you came into my life, and over the past twelve months, you have made it shine.

Happy first birthday, my sweet, sweet Will.

With love as big as the sky,


Monday, June 6, 2016

Dear Will - Eleven Months Old

Dear Will,

You are 11 months old and my god little man, I can hardly believe it. It feels like two minutes ago that I was dressing you in the tiny newborn sized alligator sleeper that I bought for your ride home from the hospital and wondering if there was a size smaller than newborn because your not-even-six pound body was swimming in it. That alligator sleeper is about four sizes too small now and packed away in a memory box that lives on the top shelf of your closet, and a couple of days ago I started picking out stuff for your first birthday party that we're having in about a month.

Your first birthday party. How did that sneak up on us so fast? In between my excitement over themes and the outfit you'll wear and the big cake I'm baking for you to smash is the deep longing I feel to slow time long enough to make memories of these sweet summer days when you're not really an infant anymore but not quite a toddler yet either.

Because these days are my favorite ones so far. You are getting so big, and it seems like every day you discover something new. You are happy and curious and love to learn how things work. You are pretty fearless too, which gives your daddy and me some scary moments, like when you make a run for the steps faster than we can catch you, but secretly, I love this part of you and hope that it never goes away. This is the tough part about being a parent, I'm learning. Striking the balance between making sure you're safe and giving you the freedom to explore your world. I think this will always be hard because part of me just wants to want to hold you close and keep you small forever and ever.

Last weekend we went to visit Aunt Susy, Uncle David, Grammy Reet, and your cousins. You were a tiny bit hesitant at first with all of the new people, but you got over that fast and were soon chatting up a storm, devouring the cheese curls that Aunt Susy got for you, playing with everyone, and smiling and laughing away. From my perch on the couch I watched you and I was so proud of you. You were open and thrilled to be there, in a brand new place, in the center of attention, with so many people who love you to pieces.

For some reason I can't quite grasp, this weekend was a big turning point for you. It seems impossible that you would grow up so much in just four days, but that is exactly what happened. Over four days filled with family, food, and fun you came alive. It was like you had been growing up slowly over the past eleven months, and then it happened all at once and it was jarring and fascinating all at the same time.

It seems impossible that I would forget anything about your first year, and yet there are already parts of it that have started to blur around the edges. But there are also parts of this past year that stand out in my mind, memories that are in complete focus and full color, and I already know that this past weekend will be one of those.You aren't going to remember it but I will, and so one day I'll tell you about how we went to Maryland for Memorial Day the month before you turned one and you started to say "mama," and swam in a big pool for the first time and learned to clap at exactly the right time when Grandma sang "If You're Happy and You Know It." I'll tell you about how you stayed up past your bedtime to eat grilled cheese and french fries in a restaurant and then wouldn't go to sleep and how you really got to know your great-grandma whose husband's name is now yours. I'll tell you about how you laughed when you played with Poppy's mustache and decided that everyone's reading glasses were more fun to play with than any of the toys I brought for you.

I'll tell you about how, at 11 months old, you were silly and smiley and full of fun. How you kept me on my toes and brightened up my life. How every day, you make a mom out of me.

You are such a joy, my sweet Will. Just keep on being you.

With love as big as the sky,